KEVIN MBEWE, Lusaka
FROM roaming the streets to owning his own tailoring shop in Lusaka’s Garden township: this is a story of Morris Siwakwi, 28, a beneficiary of Government’s youth resource centre initiative.
The initiative is about training the youth in entrepreneurial skills to help them to be self-reliant.
After completing his high school level in 2007, Mr Siwakwi could not proceed to college because of lack of finances. He lived with his mother, a widow.
Thanks to Lusaka Youth Resource Centre (LYRC), Morris finally got an opportunity to do tailoring and design, his all-time dream.
Today Mr Siwakwi is independent and earns enough to support his mother and siblings.
“After completing school, I had no one to look up to for financial support. It was really hard for me but after I graduated from Lusaka Youth Resource Centre I started earning money that I thought I would never earn and I am now able to take care of myself and other family members,” he said.
He said he makes K150 on a good day and K50 on a bad day.
It is from this money that Mr Siwakwi has also bought new tailoring equipment to expand his business.
“I have also managed to send my younger brother to Lusaka youth resource centre to study ICT and I also support my mother in paying bills,” he said.
Mr Siwakwi is among over 5,000 youths that have been trained at LYRC since it was set up in 2001.
“My father was a tailor and I always wanted to follow his footsteps but I had no formal training before I went to Lusaka youth resource centres,” he said.
Another beneficiary of the youth resources centres that are in different parts of the country is Natasha Watanuka, 22, the proprietor of Tashfaah designs.
Ms Watanuka has employed two youths to help her.
“The training at LYRC has changed my life. From doing nothing, I now make about K11, 000 to K12,000 a month before expenses especially when we have events such as Women and youth day,” she said.
She said she has established a clientele which includes churches, schools, colleges and individuals.
With her earnings, Ms Watanuka is able to pay her workers, electricity, water and other bills.
Mr Japhet Gama is training officer at the resource centre which he says helps to equip some graduates with equipment to help them start up their own businesses.
The resource centre has also established a settlement committee which follows up on the youths who graduate from the resource centre.
“The graduates apply for assistance and the committee analyses their applications before they can be sponsored, “he said.
With about 34.5 percent of young people in Zambia’s population, this is a surest way of creating self-employment.
The 2014 labour force survey indicates that of the 3,812,923 youths in the labour force, 400,810 are unemployed, representing a youth unemployment rate of 10.5 percent.
It is clear that government cannot absorb all the youth in the labour force.
In 2000, government introduced 20 resource centres in different parts of the country to equip various schools leavers and dropouts with skills.
Among the skills are Information Communication Technology (ICT), power electrical, general hospitality, metal fabrication, carpentry and joinery, designing, cutting and tailoring among other expertise.
To date these programmes have continued empowering youths with skill and most of them have been employed while others have set up businesses.
Lusaka Youth Resource Centre (LYRC) is among the 20 resource centres which have produced youths that are self-reliant after undergoing training.
The centre is a government institution under the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Child Development operating as a multi-purpose Youth Development Centre.
The centre, governed by government policy has a management advisory committee comprising members from the community.
It is also accredited to TEVETA and the Examination Council of Zambia who regulate the training and conduct examination.
The Lusaka centre was set up in 2001 with the assistance of European Union under the Zambia Education Capacity Building Programme. Its vision is to provide youth empowerment services and produce self-reliant youths nationwide.
It has been a beneficiary of the Youth Development Fund grant, which is a government fund for youth programmes.
KEVIN MBEWE, Lusaka